La gestione digitale delle emergenze

Quanto è importante avere una visione a 360 gradi dei propri clienti e del proprio business? E’ uno dei concetti su cui insisto molto nelle discussioni con partner, clienti e aziende che intraprendono un percorso di trasformazione digitale.

Un esempio real time relativo a IREN, la società che fornisce energia a Torino. Un amico mi ha segnalato che dalla scorsa mezzanotte circa ci sono problemi in città e in molte zone si hanno blackout ad intermittenza.

Dopo 10 ore, IREN non ha dato un cenno ai propri clienti: numero per guasti costantemente occupato, nessuna comunicazione sui siti ufficiali, non avendo canali social su Twitter e Facebbok nessun messaggio. La chat sul sito c’è, ma si occupa di tematiche commerciali e dunque rimandano al canale telefonico perchè sulla chat non si parla di guasti. Chiamando gli operatori al numero fornito (diverso da quello di segnalazione guasti) dicono che ci stanno lavorando ma nessuno ha detto loro cosa è successo e quando il sistema sarà ripristinato.

Clienti al buio, in tutti i sensi!

Ora, immaginate invece un sistema di comunicazione in cui non appena il guasto è segnalato dai sistemi stessi (siamo nell’era degli oggetti connessi no?), la squadra di intervento migliore (per vicinanza, qualità, esperienza, disponibilità… insomma secondo una business rule) è automaticamente allertata e indirizzata correttamente.

L’intelligenza artificiale suggerisce potenziali soluzioni al guasto, verificando che a magazzino eventuali pezzi di ricambio necessari siano disponibili e in caso non ci siano, pre-allertando i fornitori sulla potenziale necessità di una spedizione urgente.

I sistemi di comunicazione automaticamente attivano chatbot (anche se è notte, i bot non dormono mai!) e danno informazioni ai clienti, usando non solo i canali classici ma anche i vari Whatsapp, Messenger e così via. Il centralino non viene intasato da chiamate di clienti che vogliono “solo” avere informazioni.

Fantascienza? No, fattibile con gli attuali sistemi. Ma la trasformazione digitale, lo dico sempre, è anche e soprattutto questione di cultiura aziendale. La tecnologia esiste, la tecnologia è al servizio della strategia aziendale, ma senza una decisione forte e precisa del management, anche il più sofisticato dei bot con intelligenza artificiale passerà la notte a dormire in un hard disk 🙂

(se qualcuno di IREN è in ascolto e volesse approfondire, molto volentieri)

Bots are the new influencers

We need to say it clear: in the post-Web 2.0 era (if you prefer, the industrial revolution 4.0) influencer marketing will likely be taken over by bots. Bold statement, right? Let’s have a look back in the past then…

The testimonials era

When the Internet was not even existing, marketing a service or a product was mainly done by direct advertising (at that time, printed newspapers, radio, Tv, outdoor). Some nice and more sophisticated techniques were used few years later, and the “testimonial era” began. Famous people from sport or Tv advertising a product and inspiring consumers to be like them. PR agencies in the driving seat, deciding who’s who in every single industry.

Late 90’s changed dramatically existing scenario. The first wave of influencers in the Internet era were the bloggers: everyone could become a media on its own, and industries like fashion were disrupted as traditional gatekeepers — usually PR agencies — were bypassed by bloggers.

Owning the media

More and more social networks came in with the Web 2.0 era (think about YouTube or Instagram) and more industries were disrupted: the Kardashians-like or Ferragni-like influencers have been able to create massive audiences — and potentially increase sales or awareness of specific brands — without the need of massive budgets or use of traditional marketing and PR agencies.

On one side brands desperately looking to stay in touch with their customers or prospects, on the other side people able to talk as peers to this audience, creating a Win-Win situation.

With influencer marketing becoming a mass technique, more and more services to add fake followers were born, making the return on investment unclear. If everyone can claim to have 1 million followers, knowing if they’re real or fake makes the difference.

As Jonathan Akwue is perfectly summarizing, there’s a growing problem with influencer marketing today: “ the erosion of trust. As more and more influencers cash in and brands become willing to pay whatever it takes for an endorsement, the perception of the influencer as the boy or girl next door is starting to wear thin and trust is declining fast.”

The rise of the robots

If real influencers have a problem of trust, there’s certain an arising star also in marketing and communication: artificial intelligence (AI). From simple chatbots acting on behalf of a customer agent to much more complex systems running an autonomous driving car, artificial intelligence is becoming a key part of every product or service powered by a software.

2017 has been the year of virtual personal assistants (VPA) boom in the consumer space: Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home Assistant (and yes, Oracle’s Athena… less known being a B2B product not available to consumers). They’re ready to listen, understand and — guess what? — advice. They can understand people and suggest actions. In a simple word, they can influence your choices.

The influencer chatbot

Isn’t the same pattern influencers have been using over the past 5 years? Right, a human being is, at the minute, much smarter than an AI-powered personal assistant. Are we sure in 3 years from now the picture will be the same? Of course not.

“Hey Alexa, please order a package of AAA alkaline batteries”.
Can you see the power of the personal assistant now? Alexa will order alkaline batteries and, unless it will be trained do differently, it will order, or at least propose as first choice, an Amazon Basics product.

“Hey Google, book in italian restaurant nearby”.
Can you see the power of the personal assistant now? Google Assistant will book, unless trained to di differently, a restaurant which probably spent money on Google Ads to be first on the preference list.

Trust

There’s still a gap to fill, before bots can takeover influencers, or better become themselves influencers. That gap is called trust. Would you trust a bot to advise today? Unlikely, with exceptions of certain areas (e.g. if you have an issue with a product, you would probably trust a bot showing the right info on how to fix taken from the owner’s manual).

Not a surprise then if all companies are working to build that trust. Teach (and train) people to talk to VPAs is one example: Amazon is offering lower prices on the same product bought using Alexa compared to the same product bought on the website, a clear effort to instill the habit to use Alexa for shopping.

The VPA can now manage the calendar and book appointments on your behalf, tell you how much traffic there’s on your daily commute to work, search weather forecast and call your family members. You will get trained to trust that little AI powered machine, and by the time you will recognize the VPA as a trusted advisor for your life. Machine learning, deep learning, natural voice recognition will do the rest, bringing to the market humanized VPAs.

The brand challenge

The shortcut between the customer and the virtual personal assistant is incredibly powerful, as brands could be struggling in interacting directly to the customer (which has been the main reason influencer marketing has been successful so far in Web 2.0). The market of attention (aka battle for eyeballs) could be over even before it has started: when you have a smart, always-on, intelligent virtual assistant, will you still look for human suggestions? Probably only in very few moments, while the big part will go to Virtual Assistants. Within 2020, 20% of interactions in customer care will involve a VPA.

The virtual co-driver (finally)

A little story from my past, a big example on how smart ideas could spread much faster in small start-ups.

Around 3 years ago, I was discussing with the team at FCA on what services we would have needed to make Uconnect even smarter and more useful to our drivers. We came up with many ideas but one of the most exciting was to transform the head unit int a virtual driver to talk with during long journeys.

Someone capable of helping the driver (eg predicting destinations and keeping the driver connected to his network of colleagues, friends and relatives), of playing a game (we also checked the technical feasibility of having Trivial Pursuit on the screen), of having a general conversation (maybe during the boring nights while driving alone), of entertaining somehow the driver and make a more funny or productive use of the time spent in the vehicle. Much more of the tiny TomTom prototype I’ve been shown for commuting, and obviously much less than an in-person co-pilot.

Unfortunately the company was not ready for the challenge at that specific time (innovation in big corporations is sometimes a matter of philosophy and political games rather than business): this vision was deemed more an unfeasible futuristic crazy idea rather than an achievable target from our product development. I still have the slides 🙂

After some years, I’m more than happy someone else took the challenge up and will bring on the market the product. Today I backed on Kickstarter Chris – a digital co-driver with artificial intelligence – by German Autolabs.

As Holger G. Weiss is on this project, I’m sure he and his team will deliver a great product. Well done and good luck my friends!

Does Proactive Work